Role of Ashwagandha in Weight Loss

The Role of Ashwagandha in Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to promote balance and wellness, and recent research has shed light on its potential benefits for weight management and energy levels.

In this article, you'll discover how ashwagandha can help you achieve your weight loss goals by regulating cortisol levels, boosting metabolism, and combating stress eating. You'll also learn about the best time to take ashwagandha for weight loss and how it can improve your mood and overall well-being.

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The Role of Cortisol in Weight Gain

Chronic stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. When cortisol levels remain high for prolonged periods, it can contribute to weight gain and other metabolic issues.

Cortisol stimulates the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, providing a surge of energy to help the body cope with stress. However, this process also increases appetite, particularly for sweet, fatty, and salty foods. Additionally, excess cortisol can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and a slowdown in the number of calories burned by the body.

Stress-induced cortisol production can interfere with the body's ability to regulate other hormones, such as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which helps control appetite. Low levels of CRH may cause a person to eat more than usual.

How Stress Contributes to Weight Gain

When the body is under chronic stress, it constantly releases cortisol, leading to a state of "fight or flight." This can result in increased appetite and cravings for comfort foods high in calories, fat, and sugar.

A study published in Biological Psychiatry found that women who reported one or more stressors during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women. The researchers concluded that this difference in calorie burning could lead to a weight gain of almost 11 pounds per year.

Stress-related weight gain often accumulates around the abdomen, which is known as "toxic fat" due to its association with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ashwagandha's Effect on Cortisol Levels

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb and has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, which can, in turn, help manage cortisol levels and stress-related weight gain.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants who took ashwagandha root extract experienced a significant reduction in serum cortisol levels compared to the placebo group. After 8 weeks of treatment, the ashwagandha group showed a 22.2% reduction in cortisol levels, while the placebo group only saw a 1.32% reduction.

By helping to regulate cortisol levels, ashwagandha may support weight management efforts in individuals experiencing chronic stress. 

Metabolic Boosting Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been shown to have several metabolic benefits that can aid in weight management and overall health. The herb contains withanolides, alkaloids, and other bioactive compounds that contribute to its potent effects on metabolism.

Antioxidant Properties

Ashwagandha exhibits strong antioxidant properties, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. By reducing oxidative stress, ashwagandha supports healthy cellular function and metabolism. These antioxidant effects may also contribute to the herb's anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective benefits.

Influence on Thyroid Health

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism. Ashwagandha has been found to stimulate the endocrine system, potentially enhancing thyroid function. In one study, participants with hypothyroidism who took 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily for 8 weeks experienced significant increases in thyroid hormone levels compared to the placebo group. Optimizing thyroid function can help support a healthy metabolism and energy levels.

Enhancing Physical Performance

Ashwagandha supplementation has been associated with improvements in various aspects of physical performance, which can indirectly support weight management. Research suggests that ashwagandha may:

  1. Increase muscle strength and size: In a study of untrained subjects, those who took 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily during a resistance training program experienced greater increases in muscle strength and size compared to the placebo group.
  2. Improve cardiorespiratory endurance: Ashwagandha has been shown to enhance VO2 max, a measure of the body's ability to utilize oxygen during exercise. Improved cardiorespiratory fitness can support weight loss efforts and overall metabolic health.
  3. Reduce post-exercise muscle damage: Supplementing with ashwagandha may help accelerate post-exercise recovery by reducing markers of muscle damage and inflammation. This can allow for more consistent training and physical activity, which are essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism.

By enhancing physical performance and supporting recovery, ashwagandha can help individuals engage in regular exercise and maintain an active lifestyle, which are key components of successful weight management.

Combating Stress Eating with Ashwagandha

By targeting the root causes of stress-induced overeating (as discussed earlier), ashwagandha can help promote healthier eating habits and support weight management efforts.

Reducing Food Cravings

In a study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, participants who consumed ashwagandha reported significant reductions in food cravings, as measured by the Food Cravings Questionnaire-Trait (FCQ-T).

The study found that ashwagandha supplementation led to reduced cravings in the "planning," "positive reinforcement," "lack of control," and "emotion" domains of the FCQ-T, compared to the placebo group. By diminishing the psychological and emotional aspects of food cravings, ashwagandha can help individuals make healthier food choices and avoid stress-induced overeating.

Promoting Better Eating Habits

In addition to regulating stress hormones and reducing food cravings, ashwagandha has been shown to promote better overall eating habits. The same study that examined food cravings also assessed eating behavior using the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ).

The results indicated that participants who took ashwagandha experienced significant reductions in scores for "uncontrolled eating" and "emotional eating" compared to the placebo group. These findings suggest that ashwagandha can help individuals develop more mindful and controlled eating patterns, even in the face of stress.

By addressing the physiological, psychological, and behavioral aspects of stress eating, ashwagandha offers a comprehensive approach to combating this common issue. Incorporating ashwagandha into a well-rounded stress management and weight loss plan can help individuals achieve their goals and maintain a healthier relationship with food.

Ashwagandha Dosage and Usage Tips

The recommended dosage of ashwagandha for weight loss and metabolic health varies depending on the specific preparation and individual needs. However, most research suggests that taking 250–500 milligrams (mg) per day for at least 1 month may be beneficial.

When it comes to the best time to take ashwagandha for weight loss, you can take it any time of day or night. For example, it can be taken in the morning along with other supplements. However, it's best to take ashwagandha with food to avoid an upset stomach.

While ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people, there are some potential risks and safety concerns to keep in mind:

  1. High doses of ashwagandha may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, or vomiting.
  2. In rare cases, liver problems have been reported, though this may be due to other contaminants found in unregulated supplements. Be sure to purchase ashwagandha from a trusted supplement company.
  3. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and individuals with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, should avoid ashwagandha or consult with a healthcare provider before use.
  4. Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including immunosuppressants, sedatives, antidepressants, and thyroid hormone medications. Always consult your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha if you are on any medications.

To maximize the weight management and metabolic benefits of ashwagandha while minimizing potential risks, consider the following usage tips:

  • Start with a lower dose of 250 mg per day and gradually increase if needed and well-tolerated.
  • Take ashwagandha with meals to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Choose a high-quality, standardized ashwagandha supplement from a reputable manufacturer to ensure purity and potency.
  • Monitor your body's response and consult with a healthcare professional if you experience any adverse effects or have concerns about interactions with existing health conditions or medications.

By following these dosage and usage guidelines, you can safely incorporate ashwagandha into your weight loss and metabolic health regimen to support your goals and overall well-being.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha has shown promising potential in supporting weight loss and overall metabolic health. By regulating cortisol levels, reducing stress-induced overeating, and boosting metabolism, ashwagandha can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive weight management plan. Its adaptogenic properties help combat the negative effects of chronic stress on the body, while its antioxidant and thyroid-supportive actions contribute to improved metabolic function.

When incorporating ashwagandha into your wellness routine, it's essential to follow recommended dosage guidelines and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure safety and compatibility with your individual needs. With its multifaceted approach to supporting weight loss and metabolic health, ashwagandha offers a natural and holistic way to enhance your overall well-being and reach your goals.

Also Read : Chia Seeds for Effective Weight Loss

FAQs

  1. Can ashwagandha aid in weight reduction?
    Ashwagandha offers several benefits for weight management. It can boost muscle mass, which is beneficial for bodybuilders, and it can also decrease body fat, thereby aiding in weight loss.
  2. How much time does it take for ashwagandha to affect weight loss?
    Research shows that ashwagandha starts to reduce perceived stress levels within four weeks, with notable weight loss effects typically observed around eight weeks.
  3. How is ashwagandha effective for weight gain?
    Ashwagandha Lehyam promotes healthy weight gain by naturally increasing muscle mass and strengthening bones. Regular consumption provides essential nourishment and energy to the body.
  4. Which hormone is reduced by ashwagandha?
    Ashwagandha has been shown to significantly lower serum cortisol levels, which is a hormone associated with stress. This reduction helps in decreasing stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and fatigue.

References

Ashwagandha Root Extract for Managing Body Weight in Stressed Adults

Current Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: A Narrative Review

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